When I took the trip Safari Serengeti with Overseas Adventure Travel, I must have taken almost two thousand photos between my stand-alone camera and my cell phone camera. I was on the pre-trip in Kenya as well as the post-trip to Zanzibar, yet what stands out among all the photos are the close-range shots I was able to take. This does not mean I was actually that close to the wildlife, but by using my camera to zoom into the photo then later crop it, I was able to capture some wonderful moments that in some case became the best photos of the trip. Sometimes, I just focused on zooming into a single object. The texture of the photos were rich, and the close-ups themselves tell an entire story. I’m not any kind of photographer, but more of a writer; I used a point and shoot Nikon Cool Pix camera, which has serious limitations, especially in low light (which is where my Android cell phone camera comes in handy). But the photos here were all taken with my Nikon, with only a few exceptions.
The pre-trip started in Kenya, but the itinerary didn’t include time to actually see Nairobi sites as their Best of Kenya and Tanzania trip did. So, I spent three additional days in Nairobi before the pre-trip, and tired to see what I could with the help of a private guide who had once been an OAT trip leader. On the first day, he took me to Giraffe Center, where taking close-ups using zooms and cropping was hardly necessary. The giraffes not only posed for me up close, but I also got close to them! These beautiful Rothschild giraffes came right up to me, with Giraffe Manor in the background – an extremely expensive hotel where they hang out to the delight of the guests. Although it felt a bit more like a petting zoo than a true African experience, there was an opportunity to learn more about these elegant creatures and the other Kenyan giraffe species I would later meet on my safari drives.
I wanted to go to the Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary, but private tickets weren’t available at the last minute. I ended up booking the trip on Viator.com, since it seemed tour companies had purchased them all first. The entire program is only an hour long. I enjoyed it for the first half, the second half was more of the same with 13 elephants each half and their story of abandonment and becoming orphaned fully explained. Some are quite ill and it will be a while before they go back into the wild, but most will after 3 or 4 years. I appreciated the experience because the animals were not for show or baby elephant washing, which is what I saw in Malaysia at a conservancy set up by the Smithsonian. They even had a black rhino they were taking care of who had gone blind, and would never survive going back into the wild. Other elephants were there because of animal abuse, poaching had killed their family, or any number of illnesses including epilepsy. This seemed like the real deal, which I greatly appreciated. It’s also possible to adopt an elephant and purchase tickets in advance from their website .The photo above is of an elephant’s hind end up close, showing simply those magnificent wrinkles.
Once our main trip started in Tanzania, one of the cultural experiences we had was visiting a local Masai market. This is where my close up, single object photography really came in handy, since photography of the people themselves is typically unwanted. But what the people themselves was selling was wonderful and insightful of their culture. Corn is a huge staple there, and the pile of corn on the ground for sale made an interesting photograph. And so did all those pieces of tires! Sandals are made from old tires there since the rubber wears well and old tires are readily available. I had seen tires sitting around on a prior trip to Africa, but had no idea why. My long time question was answered at the Masai market. Many foods and household items were for sale for the locals only, but of course they knew we would be stopping by. So woven baskets and beaded objects were for sale to us, and we enjoyed helping the community with our sales. After this visit, all the sandals and tires we saw made so much sense. And when we met children later on, we heard them talk about the corn they ate.
Taking photos of wildlife in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro conservation area (all part of the same eco system) can be tricky. Animals like giraffes can come right up to the safari vehicle, while other animals like the leopard can be difficult to spot. But spot them we did, and my camera’s zoom lens in both locations was a great help, especially in seeing the leopard. My trip leader had to use my camera’s zoom so I could see it. I could not find the leopard with my binoculars even though others could. And the caldera in Ngorongoro has a multitude of birds in the sedge grass, creating a beautiful vision that I wanted to capture while not disturbing the birds. I also noticed that when the animals moved around, my cell phone did a better job of capturing the animal then my stand-alone camera did, With my cell phone camera, I did not have to play with settings for motion like I do on stand alone cameras. So for me, using both became a requirement on this trip, especially when quick witted animals came out quickly and I wanted a quick picture. When all else failed, my trusty binoculars allowed me to spot the animals and forego the photo taking.
After the base trip was over, I went on the post-trip to Zanzibar. The first two nights we stayed in Stone Town, which was so named because of all the coral stone that used to be there. Between seeing that and the fish market, there was more than enough close up shots to feed my fancy. But Zanzibar is also known for the spices that the Portuguese imported from India, and we visited one of many spice farms outside of Stone Town. There were some great shots of the spices being laid out to dry, which caught my attention, in addition to the fish we saw in the Stone Town fish market. Zanzibar in total – Stone Town, the monkey forest, the butterfly farm like no other I have ever seen, and the roads filled with spice farms so close to one of most beautiful beaches in the world – is a destination like no other. Its exotic, foreign, interesting, and has just enough different influences to make you feel you have really gotten away from it all.